Can 16-year-olds promote the vote?

Lincoln senator wants to lower the voting age to 16 in Nebraska

If a Lincoln senator has her way, the voting age will expand to 16 and 17-year-olds in Nebraska in future elections.


Sen. Anna Wishart is confident that lowering the voting age will help today’s teens get comfortable voting. “Voting is habit forming and it’s a skill, a learned skill,” Wishart said.  


According to Wishart, 18 is an awkward age for most people to start voting. “It’s really tough to say ‘now is the time when you’re going to start this habit in a period where your life is really in transition’,” Wishart said.


Wishart thinks this issue could be resolved by lowering the voting age.“What we’ve seen in terms of research is, if you start that habit earlier on a local level, the benefits are a lifelong habit of voting and engaging in politics,” she said.

Many students are accepting of this idea. “Votes still count,” junior Steven Garcia said, “if I had the opportunity to vote, I would.”


Some are not as enthusiastic. “There are pros and cons,” senior Haley Ablard said. “If someone is 16 and doesn’t know what they’re talking about at all just goes and votes, then that can mess it up for the people who actually care.”


Wishart was inspired by a young German woman to start research about this issue. In Germany, 16-year-olds can vote in local elections. “The level of detail and interest this woman had about local elections was intriguing to me,” Wishart said.


If a bill heading to the Washington D.C. City Council this month becomes law, 16 and 17-year-olds living in the District could be the first in the country to cast a vote for president in the 2020 election.


There is a definite growing movement to let 16-year-olds vote. Three Maryland cities, Greenbelt, Takoma Park, and Hyattsville, already allow teens to vote in municipal elections. San Francisco, California may soon join that list.  


But in Nebraska, Wishart says, there are still conversations to be had about this topic.  “This is one issue where we need to get a lot of public input, especially from young people,” she said.